Eleven Hereford cattle were emplyed to restore natural grasslands in Gruda river valley this summer. It is a nature conservation initiative of the “Naturalit” project, the goal of which is to revive the biodiversity of meadows in the most natural way.
“What seems unusual now is actually a hundred-year-old tradition,” says Eimutis Gudelevičius, director of Dzūkija National Park. – The grasslands of the Grūda valley, characterized by a big diversity of species, were formed by grazing livestock and mowing along the river. However, as the population of the village decreased, these activities eventually stopped, and the meadows began overgrowing with bushes. Therefore, we entered into a custody agreement with the farmer and transferred ten Hereford beef cattle to him. By grazing in the Grūda valley, they will help restore the biodiversity of the meadows,” says the director of the Dzūkija National Park.
Before the animals were allowed to graze, preparatory work was also carried out – overgrown trees and bushes were cut down and removed in an area of almost five hectares. By the end of the year, the directorate plans to prepare an area of 27 hectares for grazing. Most of the land in the Grūda Valley belongs to private owners with whom cooperation agreements have been signed.
“We have signed contracts with 27 people so far, but we expect to sign more in the future. Land owners gave permission to cut low-value trees and bushes, graze animals on their territory and thus maintain the favourable condition of the meadows,” says Eimutis Gudelevičius.
“Meadows are a wonderful creation of cooperation between man and nature. One square meter of natural meadow can contain about thirty species of plants, says long-time botanist of Dzūkija National Park Dr. Mindaugas Lapelė. – And what to talk about butterflies, wild bees, birds. Several types of orchids have been growing in the meadows of the Grūda valley since ancient times. Cattle grazing will improve the conditions for the recovery of populations of these and other species in the most natural way,” hopes the botanist.
The meadows of the Grūda Valley belong to “Natura 2000” network. Their conservation through livestock grazing is organized by the “Naturalit” project of the LIFE program. Dzūkija National Park and Cepkeliai State Nature Reserve Directorate is a partner of this project.